"Ramadan in Lockdown: Personal Reflection and Communal Activities"

AVACGIS Guest Lecture Series with Laura Jones (Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University)

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Zoom Virtual Event

This talk will explore preliminary findings of PhD research on Ramadan in the UK, specifically Ramadan 2020 in lockdown. With mosques closed and prohibitions on visiting family and friends, Ramadan 2020 was an unusual occasion. The research draws upon more than 50 Ramadan photo diaries from diverse Muslim participants across Britain and follow-up interviews. In this talk, Laura Jones will discuss how participants emphasised the importance of a personal connection with God during the pandemic but also highlighted ways in which communal aspects of Ramadan were transformed to suit lockdown conditions.

Regarding individual aspects of Ramadan, several participants reported that being isolated allowed them to engage in more personal reflection during Ramadan. They felt this enhanced their spirituality and connection with God. However, the pandemic also allowed them to reflect on ideas of socially-dependent religiosity, with some discussing how their sense of religiosity or ‘iman’ was positively influenced by being around other worshippers and they therefore found Ramadan 2020 challenging.

Alongside this, participants demonstrated how communal aspects of Ramadan were adapted for the new environment. Face-to-face activities - lectures, Friday sermons and communal iftars - went online and participants in different locations often viewed the same content. Thus, local mosque congregations were perhaps transformed into online geographically-spread ones. Several diarists valued praying taraweeh with their families during Ramadan. As such, a communal mosque ritual was re-enacted in a private setting.

These findings have relevance for contemporary ideas of spirituality, including communal aspects of this. They also provide a critique of private-public distinctions applied to religion in terms of the way communal worship was adapted for the pandemic.

Laura Jones is a second-year Jameel PhD student at the Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK at Cardiff University. She also holds an MTh in Chaplaincy Studies and has worked as a university Muslim chaplain. You can contact her on jonesla24@cardiff.ac.uk.

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